First month update

On Thursday I will have completed a full month as a public defender. The move out here went smoothly and we're pretty much settled in. It's been busy, with two trips back to the east coast, so not a lot of time to rest.

Life as a PD is busy. I have over 100 cases right now, and should have over 150 by the end of this week, as more are transferred to me. I'm regularly in the office until 6:30 or 7:00, catching up on writing motions and returning client phone calls.

I was supposed to have worked on two trials by now, but one client didn't show up on time to court and another trial got continued because the prosecution didn't have their witness. I have another trial scheduled for next week.

I'll try to update more often, but I'm pretty busy and there's a lot of stuff I can't say, due to client confidentiality concerns.

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It's been too long

I'm not dead yet.

There's a lot of change in my life. I'm married now. We're moving to Colorado within the next two weeks, and I start my job as a Deputy Public Defender. I'm renting out my house in the DC area and am in the midst of a mad scramble to do all the things necessary to prepare the place for tenants, e.g. painting, licenses, leases, and various maintenance tasks I've been avoiding while residing here.

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Being a Happy, Healthy, Ethical Lawyer

Orin Kerr posted a question on the Volokh Conspiracy from a not yet employed 3L looking for career advice. There are good suggestions in the comments, but the best one is from "Anonobvious," who linked to Patrick J. Schiltz's law review article, "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession."*

It was written in the late 90s, so the numbers are a little off (though that amplifies the points made), but the reasoning is simple: Big law firms are driven by money. Money does not make one happy. People driven by pressure to make money are more likely to behave unethically. If you want to be happy and ethical, stay away from big law firms.

On why big firm lawyers don't give up a little extra money for a lot more happiness:

More importantly, though, the flaw in my analysis is that it assumes that the reason lawyers push themselves to make so much money is the money itself. In other words, my analysis assumes that the reason lawyers want to earn more money is that they want to spend more money and enjoy the things that money will buy. When put in those terms, giving up 600 hours of life for another $40,000 on top of a $160,000 salary makes no sense for most lawyers. What you need to understand, though, is that very few lawyers are working extraordinarily long hours because they need the money. They are doing it for a different reason.
Big firm lawyers are, on the whole, a remarkably insecure and competitive group of people. Many of them have spent almost their entire lives competing to win games that other people have set up for them. First they competed to get into a prestigious college. Then they competed for college grades. Then they competed for LSAT scores. Then they competed to get into a prestigious law school. Then they competed for law school grades. Then they competed to make the law review. Then they competed for clerkships.229 Then they competed to get hired by a big law firm.230 Now that they’re in a big law firm, what’s going to happen?
Are they going to stop competing? Are they going to stop comparing themselves to others? Of course not. They’re going to keep competing — competing to bill more hours, to attract more clients, to win more cases, to do more deals. They’re playing a game. And money is how the score is kept in that game.

On the difference between "legal ethics" and what people generally think of as ethical:
As a law student, and then as a young lawyer, you will often be encouraged to distinguish ethical from unethical conduct solely by reference to the formal rules. Most likely, you will devote the majority of the time in your professional responsibility class to studying the rules, and you will, of course, learn the rules cold so that you can pass the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). In many other ways, subtle and blatant, you will be encouraged
to think that conduct that does not violate the rules is “ethical,” while conduct that does violate the rules is “unethical.”
It is in the interests of your professors, the organized bar, and other lawyers to get you to think about ethics in this way. It is a lot easier for a professor to teach students what rules say than it is to explore with students what it means to behave ethically.

On how the Stoics have it right about how to truly find happiness:
This is the best advice I can give you: Right now, while you are
still in law school, make the commitment—not just in your head, but in your heart—that, although you are willing to work hard and you would like to make a comfortable living, you are not going to let money dominate your life to the exclusion of all else. And don’t just structure your life around this negative; embrace a positive. Believe in something—care about something—so that when the culture of greed presses in on you from all sides, there will be something inside of you pushing back. Make the decision now that you will be the one who defines success for you—not your classmates, not big law firms, not clients of big law firms, not the National Law Journal. You will be a happier, healthier, and more ethical attorney as a result. ... (“[T]here may be no way to permanently increase the total of one’s pleasure except by getting off the hedonic treadmill entirely. This is of course the historic teaching of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, and other men of wisdom from all ages.”) (quoting Philip Brickman & Donald T. Campbell, Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society, in ADAPTATION-LEVEL THEORY: A SYMPOSIUM 287, 300 (M.H. Appley ed., 1971).

Please, if you are a law student or a lawyer, read this article. It may be some of the most valuable time spent in your career.

* - 52 Vanderbilt Law Review 871.

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Better presentations

Merlin Mann has a new post up about how he made his presentations a little better. One of the best recommendations he has is to use Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint.*

Both posts offer excellent advice for anyone who has to give presentations. Using their tips will instantly make you a better presenter than 80% of professionals in the workplace.

* - Regular readers will remember my previous post about Kawasaki's 10 things to learn this year.

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Good things to know about the workplace

Guy Kawasaki has an excellent post with the top 12 things he wished he had learned before graduating from college. My experience is that there are quite a few people well into their careers who still have not learned some of these lessons, such as how to write a five sentence email ("All you should do is explain who you are, what you want, why you should get it, and when you need it by."), how to survive badly run meetings, and how to leave an effective voice mail.

Read the whole thing, it'll probably be the most valuable five minutes you will spend all week.

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